Stephen Burt


Poet and Critic

“Burt is one of the leading poet-critics of his own emerging generation, turning out an astonishing amount of terrific review-based criticism.”

—Publishers Weekly

Stephen Burt is a poet, literary critic, and professor with eight published books, including two critical books on poetry and two poetry collections. His essay collection Close Calls with Nonsense (Graywolf Press, 2009) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other works include The Art of the Sonnet (Harvard University Press, 2010); Something Understood: Essays and Poetry for Helen Vendler (University of Virginia Press, 2009); The Forms of Youth: Adolescence and 20th Century Poetry (Columbia University Press, 2007); Parallel Play: Poems (Graywolf, 2006); Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden (University Press, 2005); Randall Jarrell and His Age (Columbia University Press, 2002); and Popular Music (Center for Literary Publishing, 1999). His new collection of poems, Belmont, will be out in 2013.

Read the Connotation Press Interview with Stephen Burt

Read the Boston Review Conversation with Burt

Burt grew up around Washington, DC, and received an A.B. from Harvard in 1994 and a Ph.D. in English from Yale in 2000. He taught at Macalester College for several years before becoming a professor of English at Harvard University.

Read the New York Times Profile on Stephen Burt

The New York Times called Burt “one of the most influential poetry critics of his generation.” His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the Believer, and the Boston Review.

Stephen Burt is the author of three poetry collections, Belmont, Parallel Play, and Popular Music, and several collections of critical works. His essay collection
 Close Calls with Nonsense was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other works include The Art of the Sonnet; Something Understood: Essays and Poetry for Helen VendlerThe Forms of Youth: Adolescence and 20th Century PoetryParallel Play: PoemsRandall Jarrell on W. H. Auden; and Randall Jarrell and His AgeHis writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The Believer, and the Boston Review.

About BELMONT (Poetry, 2013)
In Belmont, Stephen Burt maps out the joys and the limits of the life he has chosen, the life that chose him, examining and reimagining parenthood, marriage, adulthood, and suburbia alongside a brace of wild or pretty alternatives: the impossible life of a girl raised by cats; the disappointed lives of would-be rock stars; and the real life to which he returns, with his family, in the town that gives the book its name, driving home in an ode-worthy silver Subaru. Can a life be invented the way a poem can? What does it mean for a precocious child or a responsible grown-up to depict the world we want? With wit, beauty, tenderness, and virtuosity, these poems define the precarious end of extended adolescence, and then ask what stands beyond.

About CLOSE CALLS WITH NONSENSE (Criticism, 2009)

“For newcomers, it will be a guidebook; for experienced readers, Burt offers what may be the first concentrated statement explaining how and why we, consumers and writers of contemporary poetry, read.”—Time Out New York 


Stephen Burt’s Close Calls with Nonsense provokes readers into the elliptical worlds of Rae Armantrout, Paul Muldoon, C. D. Wright, and other contemporary poets whose complexities make them challenging, original, and, finally, readable. Burt’s intelligence and enthusiasm introduce both tentative and longtime poetry readers to the rewards of reading new poetry.  

About PARALLEL PLAY (Poetry, 2006)

“Stephen Burt has found a courage I’d never imagined until I read these poems. It is the courage to expound the consolations of Terror, to declare that we are the Ancients of ourselves, already more accustomed than we know to life in the ruins. With Parallel Play, Burt becomes the Cavafy of these former United States. It will be a privilege to await the barbarians in his good company.” —Donald Revell

Consult any childhood development guide and you'll run across the term "parallel play": when children under two are placed together, they'll play separately but won't interact. Stephen Burt’s second collection of poems describes lovers, friends, travelers, and revelers attempting lives dependent on each other but still pulled inevitably into preoccupations of their own self-awareness. In precisely crafted poems rife with humor and insight, Burt looks for answers in his own life and among his coterie of characters and venues—from the rock clubs of New York City to the basketball courts of the WNBA, from the canvases of Kline and Richter to the canvassers in a hard-fought election. Parallel Play confirms Stephen Burt as one of America’s most exciting new voices.


Stephen Burt's Poetry Blog